Insights Apprenticeship IT Specialist »System Integration« at Fraunhofer ITWM

Do you like looking for answers to technical questions? Do you observe the development of IT technologies, hardware and software products with great interest? Then training to become an IT specialist specializing in system integration might be just your thing. The smooth running of our science is unthinkable without modern computer technology.

To give you a better insight into everyday life and work, we spoke to our two current trainees. Phillip Krieger is in his second year of training and André Moreira is in his first year. In this interview, they talk about their experiences as apprentices at the Fraunhofer ITWM. Dominic Schunk is the trainer of the prospective IT specialists and is there to help and advise them every day.

In Conversation With Our Current Trainees

Interview with Phillip Krieger and André Moreira

How did you come up with the idea of training as an IT specialist?

André: I've always been fascinated by technology. When I had my first programming experience at the children's university at Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences, I knew that »Computer Science« was my goal. I was already looking for my own challenges back then and occasionally dismantled the home computer out of curiosity, for example.

Phillip: I became aware of the apprenticeship through my job as a student assistant in the IT department – back then at the Fraunhofer ITWM, alongside my studies. However, I have always »tinkered« with my PC hardware in my private life and always tried to keep myself up to date. During my time as a student assistant, I realized that the apprenticeship better reflected my interests than the degree course I had started.

Phillip Krieger
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Phillip Krieger: »Egal welches Problem man gerade versucht zu lösen, die Kolleginnen und Kollegen finden immer Gelegenheit und nehmen sich die Zeit zum Erklären sowie bei der Problemlösung zu helfen.«
André Moreira
© Fraunhofer ITWM
André Moreira: »Mein Alltag ist von immer neuen technischen Herausforderungen geprägt. Dabei haben wir eine große Bandbreite an technischen Geräten, die alle Themen der Informatik abdecken und den Alltag immer abwechslungsreich gestalten.«
Dominic Schunk supervises the three prospective IT specialists as a trainer: »IT is becoming increasingly important in our society and if you want to shape the future with us, then apply to the Fraunhofer ITWM today and become part of our team. We look forward to meeting you!«
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Dominic Schunk supervises the three prospective IT specialists as a trainer: »IT is becoming increasingly important in our society and if you want to shape the future with us, then apply to the Fraunhofer ITWM today and become part of our team. We look forward to meeting you!«

What exactly do you do in the IT »System Integration« apprenticeship? What tasks do you have?

Phillip: In the »IT Specialist for System Integration« apprenticeship, you learn to administer the IT infrastructure of your company, or rather the basis of it. At the Fraunhofer ITWM, this involves servers, laptops, desktop PCs and VMs (virtual machines), which are divided into different operating systems and network segments. But planning and setting up workstations, installing or replacing new server hardware are also part of the tasks of a system integrator. In addition, dealing with the concerns of employees from the specialist departments is a major focus of everyday work – in concrete terms, this means implementing IT requests and/or solving problems.

What does a typical day as an apprentice in our IT department look like?

André: My everyday life is always characterized by new technical challenges. We have a wide range of technical devices that cover all areas of IT and always make everyday life varied.

Phillip: A typical day starts with reading e-mails. These usually contain updates to tickets and documentation. An IT ticket system (also known as a helpdesk system or service desk system) is software that can be used to assign, process and track requests.

We then discuss with our trainer whether and what our daily plans are and then get straight to work. For us trainees, this usually means tasks in the area of meeting technology, laptops and parts of the Windows terminal server or desktop PC administration. Depending on the agreement with the trainer, you can also specialize in other areas or take a look inside.

I am currently being trained to help administer our new operating concept for the Windows terminal servers. I also prepare laptops for new employees, go through the user agreement with them and am available to answer any questions. This also includes meeting technology, installing special software on servers or VMs, testing it and getting it up and running. Otherwise, we process tickets of all kinds and take calls that come to us from the specialist departments.

Can you tell us a bit about how things work between us as a training company, the Fraunhofer ITWM, and the vocational school? What does the division look like in your day-to-day work?

Phillip: The apprenticeship is a dual vocational training program. This means, above all, that the training takes place at two learning locations – in the company and at the vocational school. This means that you spend one or two days a week at school and the remaining days at the company. Basically, the school teaches the theoretical knowledge that is put into practice in the company. As a rule, you learn a lot more at the institute, especially in the practical application, and gain experience and valuable knowledge.

What subjects do you study at vocational school?

André: In the first year of vocational school, we already have a wide range of IT subjects – from hardware technology to communication systems. We are shown the relevant standards and how they work. We learn programming using C++, which is very intuitive. We also have three other subjects in the area of »Business and Vocational Training«, which teach us the basics of working life.

Phillip: At vocational school, each year consists of several learning fields. In my current year, the second year of my apprenticeship, these are made up of two main areas of learning. They include the following topics, among others:

  • Processing service requests
  • Completing cyber-physical systems
  • Providing data across systems
  • Providing networks and services
  • General subject »Business and Social Affairs«

A lot of detailed knowledge is taught at school. For example, in the subject area »Network«, you learn exactly how an Ethernet frame is constructed, what it consists of and which protocols exist for it. However, programming or soldering on microcontrollers and circuit boards as well as setting up a (e.g. FTP) server on a Raspberry Pi are also part of the specialist lessons – and much more besides.

What do you like best about being an apprentice at the Fraunhofer ITWM?

André: The variety, the atmosphere and the details as well as the associated tasks. It feels a bit like being in a microcosm of a university. At the same time, the Fraunhofer ITWM has one of the most beautiful working environments you could wish for. What's more, there are probably few IT departments that offer such a varied working day.

Phillip: The IT department has a very advanced infrastructure and the financial means to stay modern and at the cutting edge. In combination with our well-informed and communicative team, work is a lot of fun. No matter what problem you are trying to solve, colleagues always find the opportunity and take the time to explain as well as help with problem solving.

What do you think? Who is this apprenticeship with us particularly suitable for? What do you think they should definitely bring with them?

André: Technical know-how is always an advantage, but a lot can still be learned. It is much more important to have a general interest in technology. We have so many different setups that you need to be flexible.

Phillip: I agree with that. You should also show a lot of initiative in this area and enjoy working in a team. That's why it's good to be a communicative person. Knowledge of English is often part of everyday life, as the Fraunhofer Institute is international and a lot of documentation is mainly in English. In addition, many employees speak English.

Phillip Krieger und André Moreira
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Um einen besseren Einblick in den Alltag und die Arbeit zu geben, haben wir mit unseren zwei aktuellen Auszubildenden, Phillip Krieger und André Moreira, gesprochen.

Do you have any tips for future trainees?

André: You should try to set up a structured workflow right from the start, as we have a lot of small tasks where precise execution and an overview are the be-all and end-all.

Phillip: IT can sometimes be frustrating if something doesn't work straight away, but you shouldn't let that put you off. There are always ways to get things working again. You just have to find the way together. Being patient is therefore a great advantage. It's also helpful if you're interested in the subject matter in your private life and have some prior knowledge.

Phillip, you have already completed more than half of your apprenticeship in the second year. Has everything gone as you initially expected?

Phillip: I didn't have any direct idea beforehand. I approached the apprenticeship with a very open mind. But at the moment I'm very happy with how things are going.

André, you are in your first year of training. Did you already know the Fraunhofer ITWM beforehand? How did you hear about the position?

André: I was already familiar with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft from various TV reports and publications. I was most fascinated by the technical innovations. I found out about the job advertisement itself during my time as a student assistant at the institute, when I was still a computer science student. The start of my studies during the pandemic was characterized by studying alone at home – I wanted to get out and into the field.

Do you already know whether you would like to stay with us at the institute after your training and whether that is possible?

Phillip: Of course I would like to stay at the Fraunhofer Institute. The staff in the specialist departments are nice and my IT colleagues are very helpful. I really like it at the Fraunhofer ITWM. It is possible to get a contract for a year after the apprenticeship. Whether a permanent position is offered afterwards is not guaranteed. That depends on many different factors.

André: I would like to stay at the Fraunhofer ITWM. One of the most convincing arguments for me is that I don't know of any other company that has such a broad hardware landscape and where the IT department has such a collegial atmosphere.